The 2015 Grammys played host to a lot of A-list performers on Sunday night, but one of the most powerful moments came from a relative unknown. Midway through the show, domestic violence survivor Brooke Axtell took the stage to introduce Katy Perry's performance of "By the Grace of God," giving a moving speech about her experience with an abusive ex.
"My name is Brooke Axtell, and I am a survivor of domestic violence," she told the hushed crowd. "After a year of passionate romance with a handsome, charismatic man, I was stunned when he began to abuse me. I believed he was lashing out because he was in pain and needed help. I believed my compassion could restore him and our relationship. My empathy was used against me...My compassion was incomplete because it did not include me."
Axtell said she was "terrified" of her boyfriend. "When he threatened to kill me, I knew I had to escape," she continued. "I revealed the truth to my mom, and she encouraged me to seek help at a local domestic violence shelter. This conversation saved my life."
Now 34 and a poet and activist, Axtell went on to reach out to others who may be in abusive relationships.
"Authentic love does not devalue another human being. Authentic love does not silence, shame, or abuse," she said. "If you are in a relationship with someone who does not honor and respect you, I want you to know that you are worthy of love. Please reach out for help. Your voice will save you. Let it extend into the night, let it part the darkness, let it set you free to know who you truly are: valuable, beautiful, loved."
Following her speech, the camera panned to Perry in a fitted white dress. As she sang "By the Grace of God" — which describes an experience with suicidal thoughts — emotive human shadows appeared on a large white screen behind her. "That song is evident of how tough it really was at a certain point," she told Billboard in 2013 of the track. "I asked myself, 'Do I want to endure? Should I continue living?'"